Marhaba, the traditional word for welcome in the Sultanate of Oman. Wherever you go you sense the air of tranquility and optimism. Genuine friendliness is something that you will experience in Oman. In fact the Omanis are proud of the fact that they are renowned for their good manners. One of your memories on leaving Oman would be the sincerity of her people.
Visit Oman and experience the essence of the Middle East's best kept secret. Oman is the best destination of the Orient. There is so much more to taste, to see and to explore. As you go through this album on Oman, you'll find yourself asking "What is it that makes this place so different? A place worth visiting ?" let us take a look...
Conservation is a major priority in Oman. Once you arrive in the country you will notice something very unique. A respect for nature. An unspoiled countryside and a splendid coastline. You will find Oman as one of the most enchanting countries in the world, where the land and the people are one. Clean and colorful, pristine and pleasant land.
A legacy that has been passed on from generation to generation. The art, the culture, the folkore and the artistry. But there is much more in the heart of Oman. The sense of respect for time, for people, for nature. An understanding of people who built these cities, travelled far and wide singing these folklore, searching and following the path of their hearts. Come and taste a part of Oman's rich heritage. Kept alive and unchanged for generations. It may help you understand tomorrow a little better.
Oman has a wealth of first class and luxury hotels and resorts, as well as a wide range of excellent restaurants offering Arabic and international cuisine. Travel agencies can arrange sightseeing tours of the cities and overnight trips to the interior. Buses and car rental facilities are available throughout the country.
From designer clothing to traditional Omani garments, Oman offers something for every taste. The souks have handcrafted jewellery and antiques, and a colorful array of products and foodstuffs imported from all over the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Merchants expect to haggle, and there are bargains everywhere.
You can scuba dive in the morning, wadi bash in the afternoon, enjoy fine dining and dance the night away. All in a single day. Or visit ancient sites and stroll through colourful markets. Photograph or film your choice of scenery. Go rock climbing or camping over night. Watch camel races, bull fights or just take in a sightseeing tour.
Oman more than just a visit. A way of life. So much more than a holiday. A chance to renew yourself.
If you are someone who has an understanding and appreciation of history, the arts, architecture and intricacies of a civil society, Oman is the place for you. From the ancient city of Nizwa to the towns along the coast to the capital to Salalah, all seeped in history, you can experience Oman's sense of timelessness.
Omanis have a great association with their heritage. An outward looking people, they have a renowned maritime history and the vital understanding that to know the future you must know your past. From their dress, their cuisine to their hospitality to their guests, they appreciate the benefits they have received from diverse cultures over the centuries.
Oman is an intriguing blend of the past and the present. From ornate silverware to detailed embroidery, Omani fashion is up to date and progressive. Visit shopping bazaars (Souqs) right out of the 'Arabian Nights' or the marvellous outlets in modern shopping centres. Your eye will sparkle at the wares on offer. Something for all the tastes and fashions. And treasures galore for the bargain-hunter.
Oman's 12,000 year old civilisation is still evident all over the country. Over 500 forts, castles and towers in architectural style are proud witnesses of a glorious past. A wide collection of historical books and manuscripts are on display for the historical buff. Vestiges of Oman's prehistoric past indicating the presence of nomads who were hunters and gatherers go as far back as 13,000 B.C. Amr Ibn Al As, the companion of the Prophet Mohammed arrived in Oman to preach the word of Allah in A.D. 630 leading to Islam, that became the state religion. The present reigning dynasty of the Al Bu Said began with Ahmad Bin Said who came to power in 1744.
Concern for the environment is the national necessity in Oman. The government ensures that economic growth occurs without destruction of the environment or loss of its renewable resources. Preservation of wildlife is a priority. Visit botanical gardens where Oman's varied flora is being nurtured and absorb an atmosphere of cleanliness and greenery.
Omanis are a courteous, friendly and spontaneous people. They are renowned for their unmatched tradition of hospitality. A manifestation of their heritage can be seen in their craftsmanship, superior nautical and agricultural skills and finely honed commercial acumen. Experience the essence of Oman... you will understand the heart of her people.
Oman is home for several rare species of animal. These include the Arabian oryx, a gazelle which came close to extinction and is now being reintroduced into the wild by the government, and a species of goat called the Arabian tahr. The offshore waters are a haven for many whales. Oman is a birdwatcher's paradise with many local species as well as migratory birds.
>> Al-Jalali Castle
Al-Jalali Castle rests on top of an Eastern rock, overlooking the old Harbour of Muscat, flanking the majestic Al-Alam Palace. Its name is thought to be derived from the Persian name Jalal. The Castle was originally Built in the early of the 16th century by Portuguese captain Melkior Calaca, with more fortifications and towers being added towards the latter half of the century. Upon its capture by Omani forces in 1650, it was gradually rebuilt and strengthened into present form. Al-Jalali Castle is fortified by two towers, connected by a long wall with built-in crevices that were used to fire cannons. It also hosts barricades, cannons and a reservoir to collect rainwater. Aside from a small bridge and stairway next to one of its towers, the Castle is entirely secluded and cannot be reached by land. The Castle and its twin Al-Mirani, in conjunction with veritable defences of Muttrah Castle and a host of fortified structures and watchtowers along the rocky ridges of the bay, made Muscat virtually impregnable. They collectively supplemented the old city's natural defences offered by the massed rows of rocky hills fringing the bay. At present, a proud monument of that glorious era of Omani gallantry and its martial heritage, the Castle resemble a grand museum set in an authentic, but grandiose ambience.
>> Al-Mirani Castle
The unconquerable Castle of Al-Mirani tops the Western rocks of Muscat Bay, flanking Al-Alam Palace. Its is thought to be named after one of its Portuguese forebears. The Castle was originally Built by Portuguese in the early of the 16th century, who took it as their major headquarter during the 60 years of thier occupation to Oman. Towards the latter half of the century, they added more fortifications and towers to the Castle, then they founded a dock in 1610 at the foot of its rock, equipped with a low-level battery ram to repel attacks of passing ships. In 1650, Omani forces expeled the Portuguese, and gradually rebuilt and strengthened the Castle into its present form. The notable feature of the Castle is its oval-shaped artillery tower, scaling to a height of 26.5 m from its rocky base at sea level to the top of the roof wall, as well as the complicated and intriguing network of passageways it houses. The Castle and its twin Al-Jalali, in conjunction with veritable defences of Muttrah Castle and a host of fortified structures and watchtowers along the rocky ridges of the bay, made Muscat virtually impregnable. They collectively supplemented the old city's natural defences offered by the massed rows of rocky hills fringing the bay. At present, a proud monument of that glorious era of Omani gallantry and its martial heritage, the Castle resemble a grand museum set in an authentic, but grandiose ambience.
>> Ar-Rustaq Castle
The Castle nestles at the foot of Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar edging Al-Batina plain. It was first built in the 13th century upon Persian ruins circa, but the current structure was re-established by the first Imam of Al-Ya'aribah dynasty between 1624-1649, when they took Ar-Rustaq as the capital of united Oman. Ar-Rustaq Castle is a rectangular shaped stronghold surrounded by masked walls, encircling an open courtyard with an open staircase leading to the top of the Castle. It encompasses 4 towers, the oldest of which is an oval shaped tower which the Persians built in the 6th century known as the Tower of Kisra, named after their leader Khisro Anu Sharwan. The Castle is penetrated by Falaj Al-Sa'eghi and includes several facilities that were used for housing, storage and defence, on top of a number of wells, Bayadha mosque, and the tomb of late Imam; Sultan bin Seif. The Castle was restored in 1986.
>> Nakhal Castle
Located in Al-Batina Region, Nakhl Castle sets on top of a 200-metre rocky prominence in the foothills of the Western Hajar Mountains, overlooking the extended verdant palm (Nakhl in Arabic) farms of Nakhl countryside. The Castle is believed to be dated to pre Islamic era, and has undergone significant renovation in the 9th & 16th centuries during the reign of Bani Kharous and Al-Ya'aribah Imams, respectively. The gate, fence and towers were built during the reign of Sultan Said bin Sultan Al-Bu Saidi in 1834. In 1990, the Castle was restorated using traditional building materials and period furnishings. Out of the various towers, Al-Wasat Tower (Central Tower) is the most prominent. The Castle also features a bridge running underneath and hosts many rooms for various uses, including the seat of the Wali, a guard's shelter and soldier rooms.
>> Sohar Castle
Proudly rests in the heart of Sohar city, the white Castle is a vital stronghold in Al-Batinah Region, due to its location and the distinctive role it played during Oman history. Archaeological excavations in 1980 revealed that Sohar Castle was built by the Emirs of Hurmuz in the 4th century, during the reign of Bani Nabahan. The current design of the Castle resembles the blueprints of Portuguese designer De Risinda in 1507, which highlights the presence of a surrounding wall, the still visible relics and the existence of a church at the Western corner of the Castle, opposite to which lies what appears to be a monument with a cross at its apex. A 10 Km tunnel runs westwards from inside the Castle towards Wilayat of Buraimi, which was a major route to obtain reinforcements and supplies during sieges. In 1993, the Castle was converted to a museum, documenting the vibrant history of Sohar, its Castle and its famous harbour.
>> Nizwa Castle
Set amid a verdant spread of date palms, the Castle is a major tourism pillar for the city of Nizwa, in Ad-Dakhliyah Region. Nizwa Castle stands proud at the heart of Nizwa as a powerful reminder of town's invincibility through turbulent periods of Oman history, being strategically located at the crossroads of caravan routes linking interior with Muscat and Dhofar regions. Nizwa was declared the capital of Oman in the 17th century during the reign of Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al-Ya'arubi, who built and used the Castle as his headquarters. Design of the Castle reflects the considerable advancement made in the field of military fortifications and mortar-based warfare during the era of Al-Ya'aribah. Main bulk of the citadel took about 12 years to complete and was built above a subterranean stream. The entrance of the Castle opens into a veritable maze of rooms, high-ceilinged halls, doorways, narrow staircases, terraces, and corridors. The most striking feature of the Castle is its central tower, which features a colossal of 150 feet in diameter and soars 115 feet above the rest of fortification, complete with battlements, turrets, secret shafts, false doors and wells. 4 cannons remain on the tower's summit, down from a total of 24, which once served as the Castle's main firepower provided complete 360-degree coverage of the countryside around.
>> Bahla Castle
The walled triangular-shaped Castle is located in Wilayat Bahla, in Ad-Dakhliah Region. Its main structures are situated on a high land in the Eastern corner. Some parts of the Castle are thought dated back to the Pre-Islamic era. The Southern faÃ§ade of the Castle measures 112.5 m, the Eastern 114m and the North Western wall 135 m. A somewhat daunting brick built high wall surrounding the Settlement of Bahla and its great stronghold, sorts to a length of 7 miles. The Castle witnessed 3 renovation periods: the first was during Nabhani reign (830), then during the reign of Imam Nasser bin Murshid Al Ya'arubi (1624), and the third was during the reign of Imam Azan bin Qais Al-Bu Saidi (1868). The unusual shape, ornate towers and impressive high wall, in addition to its cultural value qualified the Castle of Bahla to be listed by UNESCO on its list of World Heritage and Culture in 1988. Restoration work has been recently completed. Castles and Forts
Following the publication of Country Castles of Oman in September 2005, Strongholds of Heritage is the second booklet sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Muscat and designed to support the Ministry of Tourism's Forts and Castles Development Project. In addition to original research by the author, this work relies on the reservoir of information produced by the Project and their contributors from local communities. Some of the content for this booklet was published in an article which Patricia Groves co-authored with Marcia Dorr, in the 2004 edition of Pride magazine. The translation into Arabic is by Ahmed Al Mukhaini; photography by Jaap Croese; and book design by Patricia Groves. This booklet is published courtesy of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman Logistic Lines of Defense Viewed together as a defensive system, the fortresses and watchtowers form a logistical protective network, starting with those that guard the coastline. The next line of defense consists of citadels at the foot of the mountains watching over the entrances to the interior passages in an arc that extends from Sumail to Buraimi. In the valleys and beyond the mountains, at every major settlement in the Interior, stands a fort or castle. Along the routes in between are the watchtowers casting a vigilant eye over key water sources and the arteries of trade. This network of strongholds can be seen as unifying the country, with the ultimate goal of controlling maritime and overland trade to safeguard the riches of the sea and the harvest of the land. Always positioned prominently in the landscape, the fortress had a powerful symbolic function as a deterrent for the enemy and in the local exercise of dominance and leadership. The political eloquence of the fortress was expressed by its elevated or strategic position, by its massive structure and by its commanding architectural countenance. The symbolic might of the citadel implied minimal decorative elements on the exterior. It was plain, bold, forbidding. And it marked its territory in no uncertain terms. The Primacy of Indigenous Materials - Mud brick and Saruj The materials traditionally used for the construction of Omani strongholds were found in the local environment. The key elements were stone, palm wood and fibre, mud. brick and saruj. Timbers imported from Africa and sub-continental Asia supplemen-ted scarce supplies of local hardwoods and were used for doors, window frames or screens and ceiling beams. Indigenous clay has played an integral role in the development of Omani architecture. In the construction of forts, clay has been used both in the form of sun-dried bricks tempered with straw and as the main constituent of a traditional building material known as saruj, which served both as plaster and mortar. Despite its wide availability, stone was most often used only for the foundations or floors. Where undressed stone slabs were used in the construction of the walls, as for instance in Jabrin Castle, the stone was overlaid with saruj, resulting in the rich, smooth appearance that characterises Oman's monumental architecture. Nevertheless, mud brick, with its superior insulating qualities, took preference over stone for the superstructure of many important buildings - even those of monumental scale, including Bahla Fort, Oman's tallest traditional structure.
Design Features of Forts
The outer appearance of Omani fortresses is plain in the extreme, broken only by the curvature of towers and by crenellations, which normally served a defensive rather than an ornamental purpose, although some instances of the latter are found.Crenellations consist of the regular crest and dip (merlon and embrasure) pattern that edges the perimeter walls and towers of many forts. When designed for defensive purposes, crenellations consist of merlons wide enough to protect a sentinel, with embrasures structured so that he could take aim and shoot accurately from them. Certain design features of strategic doorways are seen as distinctively Omani and include a comprehensive set of defensive mechanisms. Among these are a pivoting post-style hinge, and a small "sub door" with a raised threshold so that anyone entering must both step up and hunch over, thereby relinquishing any effective aggressive stance. The main door is recessed to accommodate a machicolation or "murder hole", a narrow rectangular slit above the doorway, designed to facilitate an assault on the invader by pouring scalding date syrup, or throwing a projectile. Water could be poured through the machicolation to quench a fire set by the enemy. While the main entrance door normally has some features that are purely decorative such as carving, the wood is usually studded with iron spikes or metal bosses to reinforce its strength and to serve as a deterrent. The spiked door originated in India to injure and ward off charging elephants.
Structural Changes over Time
The introduction of firearms into Arabia and the arrival of the cannon in the 16th Century necessitated changes in the structure of forts. Adaptations include the number, placement and structure of towers. The tower evolved over time as an efficient defensive structure.The introduction of firearms into Arabia and the arrival of the cannon in the 16th Century necessitated changes in the structure of forts.It allows a relatively small number of sentinels,encapsulated high within a narrow perimeter,to achieve maximum coverage of the surrounding territory. The structural integrity and inherent strength of the tower's classic cylindrical form, with its combined horizontal and vertical curving, act to reduce the impact of projectiles. Towers were placed at the corners of the building and sometimes also at strategic junctures in the outer walls connecting the corners. Advancements in firepower allowed for a greater firing range and made it possible to dispense with all but two towers, each positioned at one corner on a diagonal axis. The introduction of cannon necessitated further modification of the towers, which were thickened to withstand cannon fire and heightened to increase the firing range. Multiple cannon ports required significant refinement of firing platforms to support the mighty weight of the cannons and to accommodate their post-firing backward jerk. The structural and spatial requirements were altered accordingly; but, by the end of the 19th Century, the fortress would be frozen in time as modern warfare swiftly relegated this essentially mediaeval bastion to the past. Although there are many common elements in Omanâ€™s military architecture, each structure is unique and offers a separate insight into the character and history of its catchment area. This point is illustrated with reference to four classic examples in Omanâ€™s treasury of Forts.
The Future of the Forts
Twenty-two Forts and Castles have been restored through the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and are now under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism. There are several more Forts and Castles currently undergoing restoration. While in the past, some Forts and Castles have been restored to a state of perfection that belies their original context the current philosophy of restoration is to stabilize and revitalize these time-honoured structures without erasing valued evidence of the past. Fortunately, the use of traditional methods and materials in combination with modern architectonics has spurred the revival of ancient craftsmanship. Omanâ€™s Forts and Castles are to be enjoyed by local and international visitors as living entities for today. Made safe for all visitors and accessible to the disabled, they are furnished to be appealing and useful, while evoking the atmosphere of historical times. The visitorâ€™s experience is enriched by the introduction of museums in several of the Forts and Castles, along with Omani Craft Heritage shops and refreshment outlets at some of the sites. The Ministry of Tourism is thus bringing Omanâ€™s forts and castles from the past into the present to ensure the survival of these treasured icons of the landscape into the foreseeable future.
Oman's pride is its splendid coastline with long reaches of sandy beach. There are shells to examine and rocky caves to explore, and the water is always warm. Sailboats can be rented at the beach hotels and marinas, and tourism groups can provide for offshore cruising, fishing, and scuba diving.
Winter begins around October and continues to April, and the weather is cool and pleasant. Summer is between April to September and the Weather is hot and humid.
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